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"Psychiatry is the field of medicine dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness. The diseases psychiatrists treat include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addiction, delirium and dementia, anxiety, and personality disorders. As physicians who treat the mentally ill, psychiatrists have some of the most rewarding long-term relationships with their patients. This is an interdisciplinary specialty, well-suited for doctors who wish to use the broadest of all skills - psychosocial, scientific, and clinical. Historically, psychotherapy has always formed the core of psychiatry. But with remarkable advances in neuroscience and drug therapy, this field of medicine has shifted to a more biological-based approach. Now, psychiatrists draw on the latest research in brain imaging, genetics, and psychopharmacology to treat many debilitating disorders."

— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p. 419.

M1 and M2 Students

 What advice would you offer first- and second-year students who are interested in pursuing your specialty?

Do well in your classes in general. Read about psychiatry. Volunteer at the CHC psych clinic. Get involved in psych research over the summer, if you’re interested in research. Join the American Psychiatric Association, which is free for medical students, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

 How important is a research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?

Research is not terribly important, but it doesn’t hurt.

M3 and M4 Students

 What M4 electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?

A student should not do more than two psych electives in their M4 year. For psych electives, they should do something different than what they did as an M3 (e.g., if they did inpatient as M3, do CL or child psych as an M4).
Outside of psych, any electives are fine. A medicine sub-I is useful.

 Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?

Only if you want to be in a certain geographic area. It is by no means required.

 If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many "aways" do you recommend?

One is plenty.

 If away rotations are necessary, when should they be completed?

Ideally, they should be done in the late summer/early fall, in order to be useful in the application process. On the east coast, many psychiatrists are away in August, so that is not a great time to do an away elective.

 Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?

November; interviews are often done by mid-January.

 Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?

No, you should have one letter from psych, but can have others from outside.

 If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?

Medicine is highly valued; but a letter from someone who knows you is what is important.

 Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?


 Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?


 Psychiatry Specialty Session

During the winter of the M3 year, students should attend specialty sessions sponsored by the department to learn more about the specialty and meet attendings and residents in the field.

Request a Psychiatry Adviser

Michael Marcangelo, MD
Psychiatry Career Advising Coordinator
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For More Information

Department of Psychiatry
Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine
446 E. Ontario St. #7-100
Chicago, IL 60611